Reading through your credit card statement each month is a good practice to confirm all the transactions you were billed for are actually yours. You're responsible for any charges you don't explicitly dispute, so if you spot an error, you should inform your credit card issuer quickly to clear up the error.
How to Dispute a Credit Card Billing Error
Writing a letter to dispute a credit card billing error is the best way to protect your rights under the Fair Credit Billing Act, a federal law that protects consumers against unfair credit billing practices. Sending your letter via certified mail will give you a timestamp in case you ever need to prove that you made your dispute in time.
The Fair Credit Billing Act only applies to revolving credit accounts, like a credit card or a line of credit. Installment loans or other types of fixed credit agreements aren't covered by the law.
The FCBA allows you to dispute a few types of billing errors. The list includes:
- Billing errors
- Unauthorized charges
- Charges for goods or services you didn’t receive
- Charges for the wrong amount
- Math errors on your credit card statements
- Payments or credits that didn’t post to your account.
You can also dispute bills that weren't mailed to you, unless you failed to notify your credit card issuer of changes to your address at least 20 days before the end of the billing cycle.
Timeframe for Credit Card Disputes
You must send your dispute letter within 60 days that the billing statement containing the error was mailed to you. Your credit card issuer is not legally required to resolve billing errors that you dispute after these 60 days and you may be on the hook for those charges, despite the fact that they were inaccurate.
Many credit card issuers will investigate your dispute even if you make it by phone, as long as it’s within the 60-day window. Following up with a letter gives you an extra layer of protection and gives you an opportunity to provide proof that supports your claim.
Once the credit card issuer receives your dispute letter, they’re required to respond in writing within 30 days and resolve the dispute within two billing cycles of receiving your letter. In the meantime, you're not required to pay anything on the disputed charges while the credit card issuer investigates, but you do have to make any other required minimum payments and finance charges. Missing your required minimum payment will lead to a payment, a late fee, and possibly a late notice added to your credit report.
What to Put in Your Credit Card Dispute Letter
The dispute letter can be simple - an example is included below. In your letter, include the transaction or transactions that you’re disputing and the reason you’re making the dispute. Send copies of any proof, e.g. a receipt, that support your dispute.
If you’ve already called about the error, mention the date and time of the phone call in your letter and the name of the representative who assisted you.
When you're ready to mail off your billing error dispute letter, check your credit card statement for the credit card issuer’s address for correspondence. Note that this address is usually different from the address where you mail your payment.
Below is a sample letter you can use for credit card billing disputes (not for credit report errors, which require a different kind of letter). Be sure to customize the letter with your personal information, including your credit card account number or at least the last four digits of the account number. Keep a copy of the letter with the original receipts or other proof for your records.
Sample Credit Card Billing Dispute Letter
City, State Zip
City, State Zip
Re: Account Number
Dear Sir or Madam:
This letter is to dispute a billing error on my account in the amount of $__________. The amount is inaccurate because <describe in detail why the amount is wrong, e.g. the merchandise was returned, late fee is incorrect, etc.>.
I have enclosed copies of <describe any enclosed documentation, e.g. return receipt, cancelled check, etc.> to support my claim.
Please correct this billing error as soon as possible.